Mental Health Meets Reproductive Health

Hey everybody and happy New Year! A big thank you to Sydney for being the next entry of Birds of a Feather! Sydney’s entry focuses on the connection between mental health and premenstrual symptoms. I thought this entry would be great, especially since January is Mental Wellness Month! Health isn’t simply just physical or mental, but more so a combination of psychological, physical, and social factors. Therefore, we gotta make sure everything is right before we take flight! (Okay y’all that was off the dome, BARS!) Again, thank you Syd so much for writing this lovely entry! If y’all love her work, please go fly over to her blog that is linked at the end of this entry. ~ Cheyenne

Hi everyone! My name is Sydney and I am a fourth-year Public Health major. I am very passionate about women’s health and empowerment and am working towards a career in it. For this entry, I want to talk about the link between mental health and premenstrual

symptoms. I have been fascinated with menstruation since I learned about its purpose in high school. This entry is not to gross anyone out (as much as I’d love to), but to discuss the effects reproductive hormonal fluctuation has on our mental health. There are two health conditions I want to highlight: premenstrual dysphoric disorder and polycystic ovary syndrome. People with either condition are more likely to experience depression than a person without any endocrinal anomalies.

Let’s dive into premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD). If you are familiar with premenstrual

syndrome (PMS), PMDD is an intensified version of that. PMS is a group of symptoms people

who menstruate experience before their period starts. Symptoms usually include bloating,

fatigue, mood swings, acne, nausea, etc. And by the way, the term premenstrual syndrome

shouldn’t be used anymore. In my opinion, calling it a “syndrome” is misleading. The word

makes it seem like it’s uncommon when over 90% of the women on this planet experience it

before every period, but I digress. PMDD is a severe version of PMS. Imagine PMS symptoms that are ten times worse in addition to depression, anxiety, and more. Serotonin levels briefly drop during PMS, and if a person has PMDD, serotonin levels will be even lower. This leads to symptoms of depression. Severe depression due to PMDD can also lead to suicidal behavior. According to Johns Hopkins health, PMDD can be managed with exercise, birth control, stress management, etc. (Hopkins Medicine)

The other condition I want to talk about, which is very different from PMDD, is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Polycystic ovary syndrome is when a hormonal imbalance causes multiple cysts to form in the ovaries, making menstruation irregular. PCOS symptoms include excess body hair, acne, weight gain, infertility, etc. Some people with PCOS experience depression, anxiety, and/or eating disorders. There are studies still being done to find the causal relationship between mental health disorders and PCOS but there are some theories, so far. Some experts think PCOS causes depression because it causes visible symptoms and people are frustrated with having the condition. Another theory is simply that the hormonal fluctuation increases depression and anxiety. In a 2018 study, researchers found that of the women diagnosed with PCOS, women in their 20s are more likely to have depression than other child-bearing age groups. (Sadeeqa et al., 2018)

Although PMDD and PCOS are different in many ways, they both can occur in young people. So where do we go from here?

Here are some strategies I came up with to help us be proactive about these complications:

  1. Listen to your friends with periods – especially your black friends. If they’re open about their symptoms, offer your support and continue to check on them.

  2. Give yourself grace. If you have PMDD, PCOS, or just really challenging periods, don’t be hard on yourself about it. We have little control over what happens in our uteri and how our hormones fluctuate every month. Symptoms could become more severe if we add unneeded stressors to our lives.

  3. See a professional! If you have access to a counselor and/or a gynecologist, please go – especially if you’re experiencing any of the symptoms listed above.

The information I’ve shared in this entry has taught me that poor reproductive health increases the risk of having poor mental health. We need to take care of ourselves, our friends, and continue the conversation.

For more information: PMDD and PCOS

I hope you all learned something new! If you’d like to read more about women’s health, you

can visit my blog, Glow From Here. Also, if you have any thoughts and opinions, leave a

comment below! I would love to hear what you are thinking.


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